Foods to Eat Before a Workout

Athletes and gym enthusiasts are continuously looking for new ways to better their performance and meet their objectives.

Nutritional diets can help your body perform better and recover quickly after each workout.

Not only will optimal nutritional intake before exercise help you enhance your performance, but it will also help you avoid muscle damage (1).

It’s Critical to Know What to Eat.

Before you work out, fueling your body with the correct nutrients will provide you with the energy and power you need to perform better.

Before a workout, each macronutrient has a unique purpose. However, the amount you need to ingest depends on who you are and what type of exercise you do (2).

The role of each macronutrient is discussed briefly below.


Carbohydrates provide energy to your muscles.

Glycogen is a carbohydrate that the body uses to digest and store glucose, primarily in the liver and muscles.

Your glycogen stores are the primary energy source for short and high-intensity activity (3).

However, the amount of carbs used during lengthier workouts is determined by several factors. These factors include the intensity of your workouts, the training you do, and your general nutrition (3).

The glycogen stores in your muscles are limited. Therefore, your output and intensity will decrease as these stockpiles are depleted (4) (5) (6).

Numerous studies have found Carbs to increase glycogen storage and utilization while also increasing carb oxidation during exercise (6) (7), (8).

Carb loading entails eating a high-carbohydrate diet for 1–7 days.


Pre-workout protein ingestion has been shown in numerous studies to boost athletic performance.

Before exercise, eating protein (alone or with carbs) has been found to boost muscle protein synthesis (9), (10), (11).

One study found that 20 grams of whey protein taken before exercise resulted in an excellent anabolic response (9).

Other advantages of eating protein before exercising are as follows:

Anabolic response, or muscular growth, is improved (11), (12)
Muscle healing has improved (12)
Increased lean body mass and strength (13)
Muscle performance has improved (11), (12), (13)


While glycogen fuels short, high-intensity workouts, fat is used to power prolonged, moderate-to-low workouts (14).

The result of fat intake on athletic performance have been studied in a few research. These studies, however, looked at high-fat diets over time rather than just before activity (15), (16).

One study, for example, found that a four-week diet high in fat increased endurance running times in healthy, trained runners (15).

It’s Critical to Time Your Pre-Workout Meal

The timing of your meal is also a crucial factor to consider when it comes to pre-workout nutrition.

Eat a comprehensive lunch with carbs, protein, and fat 2–3 hours before exercising to get the most out of your workout.

However, you may not be able to have a complete meal 2–3 hours before working out in some instances.

You can still eat an excellent pre-workout meal in that instance. Keep in mind, however, that the earlier you eat before your workout, the smaller and more manageable the meal should be.

Choose foods that are easy to digest and contain primarily carbs and some protein if you eat 45–60 minutes before your workout.

This will aid in the prevention of stomach problems.

Some Pre-Workout Meal Examples

Which meals to eat and how much to eat depends on the type, duration, and intensity of the workout.

Before exercising, eating a blend of carbs and protein is a good idea.

If you’re going to eat fat with your pre-exercise meal, do it at least a few hours before your workout (2).

Here are some suggestions for healthy pre-workout meals:

If your workout is scheduled to begin in the next 2–3 hours or more,

-Sandwich on whole-wheat bread with lean protein and a salad on the side
-A cup of fruit and an egg omelet on whole-grain bread with avocado spread
-Brown rice, lean protein, and roasted vegetables

If you’re starting your workout in less than two hours,

-Milk, protein powder, banana, and mixed berries are blended into a protein smoothie.
cereal made with whole grains and milk
-Oatmeal with banana and chopped almonds in a cup
-Sandwich on whole-grain bread with natural almond butter and fruit preserves

If you’re starting your workout in an hour or less,

-Fruit and Greek yogurt
-Protein-rich nutrition bar made with natural components
-A banana, orange, or apple is an example of fruit

Remember that you don’t need to eat a variety of pre-workout meals. Choose one of these instead.
Experiment with various times and nutrient mixes for the best results.

Supplements Can Also Be Beneficial Before Working Out

In sports, supplement use is prevalent. These supplements may help you perform better, gain more strength, lean body mass, and feel less tired.

Some of the most excellent pre-workout supplements are listed below.


Creatine is one of the most popular sports supplements.

It has been demonstrated to improve muscle mass, fiber size, strength, and power while postponing exhaustion (17) , (18).

Although taking creatine before any exercise is helpful, it appears to be much more effective when taken afterward (18).

Taking 2–5 grams of creatine monohydrate each day is helpful.


Caffeine has been demonstrated to improve performance, increase strength and power, reduce weariness, and accelerate fat burning, among other things (17), (19).

Caffeine is a stimulant that can be found in coffee, tea, and energy drinks, as well as pre-workout vitamins and pills.

It makes little difference how you take it because the impacts on performance are usually the same.

Caffeine’s effects are at their most significant 90 minutes after ingestion. However, it has been proven helpful even when taken 15–60 minutes before exercise (20).

Amino Acids with Branched Chains (BCAAs)

The BCAAs are the essential amino acids valine, leucine, and isoleucine.

BCAA supplementation before a workout has been demonstrated to reduce muscle damage and boost muscle protein synthesis in studies (10), (21).

It is practical to take a dose of 5 grams or more at least an hour before activity (21).


Beta-alanine is an amino acid that raises the amount of carnosine in your muscles. Short and high-intensity exercises have been demonstrated to be the most beneficial.

This is accomplished by boosting exercise capacity and muscular endurance while decreasing tiredness (22), (23), (24).

A daily intake of 2–5 grams is recommended, with at least 0.5 grams ingested before your workout (25).

Pre-Workout Supplements with Multiple Ingredients

Some people prefer supplements that contain a combination of the nutrients mentioned above.

The combination of these compounds may have synergistic effects, resulting in considerable performance improvements (26).

These products’ most widely used constituents include caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, branched-chain amino acids, arginine, and B vitamins (26), (27).

Workout output, strength, endurance, anaerobic power, response time, attention, and alertness have all been found to improve with these pre-workout vitamins (26), (27).

The exact dose depends on the product, but it’s usually best to take them 30–45 minutes before working out.

It’s Also Important to Stay Hydrated

Water is necessary for your body to function properly.

Dehydration has been associated with severe performance losses, whereas good hydration has been proven to maintain and even improve performance (28), (29), (30), (31).

Drink 16 to 20 ounces (0.5–0.6 liters) of water at least four hours before a workout and 8–12 ounces (0.23–0.35 liters) of water 10 to 15 minutes before training, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) (32).

Drinking water and sodium before working out is a good idea. This will help to maintain fluid balance (32), (33).

They also advised drinking a sodium-containing beverage to assist retain fluids (32).

Putting Everything Together

Nourishing your body with the correct nutrients before a workout is critical to enhancing your performance and recovery.

Carbs aid your body’s ability to use glycogen to fuel short- and high-intensity exercises, whereas fat aids in fueling prolonged workouts.

Protein consumption aids muscular protein synthesis, prevents muscle injury, and aids recovery.

Hydration has also been related to improved performance.

Three hours to 30 minutes before an exercise, eat a pre-workout meal. Choose foods that are easier to digest, especially if you have a one-hour or less workout ahead of you. This will assist you in avoiding stomach pains.

Many different vitamins can also help with performance and recovery.

In conclusion, a simple pre-workout routine is all that is required.

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